Mental health effects of the coronavirus pandemic will be ‘severe,’ expert warns

WATCH ABOVE: Is a 'mental health pandemic' coming after COVID-19?

Federal and provincial governments need to prepare for a swell in mental health problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which one expert warns will pose a “severe” challenge in managing.

In an interview with The West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson, the CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association said while some larger provinces have been acting to shore up supports for mental health resources, her organization is seeing signs the smaller ones might not have enough money to do so.

“There’s a real recognition that the mental health impacts are going to be severe,” said Margaret Eaton.

“It’s the smaller provinces that we’re actually more worried about right now that may not have the big budgets that would allow them to invest in mental health in the same way some of the deeper-pocketed provinces have.”

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Eaton pointed to Nova Scotia as an example of one of the places where her organization is seeing a spike in the number of people asking for mental health help.

She said while branches in that province would normally see around 25 phone calls per day, they recently received 700 in a single 24-hour period.

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“We’ve been scrambling to make sure that people get care virtually and on the phone,” Eaton said, and while she acknowledged that virtual mental health support isn’t “ideal,” right now it is the only option.

Click to play video: 'Keeping tabs on your mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic'
Keeping tabs on your mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic

A poll released on April 27 by Angus Reid found half of all respondents reported their mental health has gotten worse over the last month and a half.

An Ipsos survey done for Addictions and Mental Health Ontario also found similar results, with 45 per cent of Ontarians reporting their mental health has suffered as a result of the pandemic and 67 per cent saying they expect those effects to be “serious and lasting.”

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That Ontario survey also found 42 per cent of Ontario adults reported increasing their use of substances or gambling since the pandemic began.

Given the country was already facing an opioid epidemic before the pandemic, Eaton said, that finding is “a big concern” and that there are resources for people trying to understand if their substance use has become a problem.

“I would say if you are in a situation where you are finding that your use of substances interferes with your daily life, with your ability to connect with people or do your daily work or volunteer activities, then it’s time to think about support,” she said.

“It’s really important that we reach out to each other … we need each other now more than ever.”

Click to play video: 'Isolation compounding mental health issues for some'
Isolation compounding mental health issues for some

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